FIFA U-20 WOMEN’S WORLD CUP
Nigeria’s Falconets returned to winning ways yesterday at the ongoing FIFA Under-20 Women’s World Cup in Papua New Guinea, defeating Canada 3-1.
Goals by Chinaza Uchendu, Joy Bokiri and Chiwendu Ihezuo steered the Nigerian Under-20 girls to victory.
After the crushing 6-0 defeat the Falconets suffered in their opening game with Japan, handler of the team, Peter Dedevbo, ringed changes in the squad to get Nigeria’s first three points of the tournament and the revival of hope of progressing to the knock out phase.
The Canadians, who similarly received a 5-0 hiding from Spain in their first match, went in front after only 15 minutes as Deanne Rose turned captain Ugochi Emenayo in the box and then teed up Gabrielle Carle to heave past Nigerian goalkeeper Onyinye Okeke.
Rasheedat Ajibade, captain of the Nigeria Under-17 girls, was a constant menace for the Canadians, and nearly got the equaliser in the 37th minute. Eight minutes later, Uchendu brought Nigeria level when she shot past Rylee Foster from the penalty spot after Bianca St Georges handled the ball in the box.
Dedevbo’s girls came into the second half like a house on fire, and were in front after only 40 seconds as Joy Bokiri rocketed home from close range in a goalmouth scramble.
Chiwendu Ihezuo profited from a poor clearance by goalkeeper Foster to double the advantage in the 74th minute, meaning that the Falconets can still progress to the quarter –finals, mathematically, if they achieve a win over Spain on Sunday.
Meanwhile, attacking midfielder Rasheedat Ajibade was named the Live Your Goals Player of the Match against Canada.
“I am excited and grateful to God for this award. Ajibade began. I am dedicating this award to my team-mates for their support and especially to Coach Peter Dedevbo for believing in me and giving me the opportunity to be part of the team.”
Beaming with smiles, Ajibade noted that there is a huge difference between playing at the Under-20 World Cup and playing at the Under-17 cadre.
“The difference is very clear, the pressure in the Under-17 is not as strong as what I am experiencing here. It is more like the higher you go, the hotter it becomes.”
In the other matches played earlier, Spain finally brought an end to their long winless run against Japan. Having suffered a string of defeat at the hands of the Japanese at U-17 level at Costa Rica 2014 and Jordan 2016, La Rojita finally gained revenge courtesy of Maria Caldentey’s late penalty.
Over in Group A, Korea DPR became the first team to progress to the quarter-finals of the FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cup Papua New Guinea 2016 when they beat Brazil 4-2. Beaten heavily in their opening game, hosts Papua New Guinea showed some encouraging signs in a 6-0 defeat to Sweden.
Korea DPR 4-2 Brazil
P’N Guinea 0-6 Sweden
Spain 1-0 Japan
Nigeria 3-1 Canada